By Wayne Litke
Yes, it’s another update regarding our maritime adventure.
Leaving the Bay of Fundy, we traveled cross country to a small New Brunswick town for two specific reasons: see the world’s longest covered bridge and visit the Covered Bridge Potato Chip factory. I have seen many photos of covered bridges, but never examined one first hand. Therefore, I did not want to leave the Maritimes until I had encountered one of the historic wooden structures. I never imagined I would see the world’s longest covered bridge.
Our bridge quest actually began while Angela was eating a lobster taco at the Halifax waterfront. She happened to glance at her potato chip bag and discover the brand was Covered Bridge – a brand that we were not familiar with. Later, we spotted more of the treats at a grocery store at Lunenburg and bought some. While sitting on the ocean floor at Hopewell Rocks (during low tide at the Bay of Fundy), she opened a bag of the chips and then started reading the print on the bag while I took photos. She discovered the chips were made at Hartland, N.B. just down the road from the world’s longest covered bridge.
After seeing the high tide the next day, we set out to find the bridge and potato chip factory. The bridge was closed for maintenance when we arrived which was perfect because it was open to pedestrians. We walked across the 100-year-old bridge, examined its construction and imagined young lovers kissing as their horse-drawn carriage was traversing its 1,282-foot span. I had to refrain my wife as her imagination grew more vivid with each step. From there we visited the Covered Bridge Potato Chip factory which initially drew us to the area and sampled at least 20 varieties of chips including the local specialty, what else but lobster.
We left Hartland and drove to Quebec with plans of crossing the St. Lawrence River at Trois Rivieres and attending a family wedding in Ontario. As we crested the top of the bridge, the engine of our truck suddenly began racing and we lost power to the wheels. We coasted – slowly I must say, very slowly – down the bridge as a long line of transport trucks formed behind us. After getting stopped on an off-ramp, we succeeded in contacting a towing company, but discovered the dispatcher did not speak English. With the help of a nearby Ford dealership, a tow truck was secured and the manager allowed us to spend the night at their dealership in our camper. Since the dealership would not be able to work on our truck for three or four days, a young man in the service department who struggled with English patiently helped us by finding a rebuilt transmission at another location and summoned another tow truck the next day. Without his assistance we would have had a very difficult time since few people spoke English.
After a 45-minute ride in the tow truck which took us back over the bridge of drive train failure, we arrived at Beaulieu Transmission at Victoriaville. Unfortunately, the owner (Mario Beaulieu) spoke less English than we spoke French. But he had a brother-in-law who was fluent in both languages, so he was asked to serve as an interpreter. It was through him that we learned the reason two western saddles were in the front window of the transmission shop. They belonged to the owner who enjoys going on trail rides. He also had a rebuilt transmission in stock that fit our truck, provided a quote and dispatched two of his mechanics to begin working on our vehicle. Mario said they would do their best to have our truck ready the next day so we could hopefully make it to our nephew’s wedding on time. We were hopeful, but not overly optimistic. The owner then drove us to a motel. His assistance reminded me of reports I have heard about Maple Creek businesses helping travelers who were stranded or having vehicle problems. True to his word, our truck was repaired the next day, the cost matched the quote he provided, and we left the small city that had produced the first hockey stick I owned as a child.
Exactly two days after the transmission in our truck failed, we successfully crossed the Trois Rivieres bridge (again) and set our sights on Bruce County, Ontario. We arrived in time for the wedding and then began visiting Angela’s relatives. I rode shotgun as a brother-in-law took me to hardwood forests that he was selectively logging. The trees he harvested were transported to a Mennonite sawmill. While the mill was powered by a diesel engine, a nearby house did not have any modern luxuries such as electricity or running water.
At another brother-in-law’s dairy farm, my skills were immediately recognized as we sorted calves. I was given the important job of scrubbing out milk pails and successfully completed the task.
Before leaving Bruce County, we made time for a brief stop at Dundalk in order to visit the parents of Marcia Love. I felt it was time they knew what their daughter has been up to while living out west and since we were in the vicinity, Angela could fill them in. In return, we were asked to transport Love’s homemade maple syrup back to Maple Creek to Marcia. Unfortunately, two of the bottles of syrup began leaking en route, so we were forced to use it so it did not go to waste. Maple syrup truly adds great flavour to many foods, but not steak, spaghetti, soup or pizza.